Commissioners approve balanced 3-year budget

County Executive L. Brooks Patterson applauded the Oakland County Board of Commissioners for unanimously approving his balanced budget last Thursday through Fiscal Year 2017. The general fund/general purpose estimated revenue and appropriations are $418,813,733 for fiscal 2015; $422,490,699 for fiscal 2016; and $425,518,541 for fiscal 2017. The total budget for all funds amounts to $802,160,013 for fiscal 2015; $808,399,113 for fiscal 2016; and $810,530,791 for fiscal 2017. The budget is also balanced for fiscals 2018 and 2019 based on the county's five-year outlook.

"Oakland County is the best managed county in the nation because we believe in thoughtful management, not crisis management," Patterson said. "That's evident in the multi-year budget approved today coupled with our long-range planning."

Oakland County employees will see their salaries return to one percent above 2009 levels in fiscal 2015. Employees will receive a total general salary increase of three percent for fiscal 2015, two percent for fiscal 2016, and one percent for fiscal 2017. This follows a total of four percent in general salary decreases in fiscals 2010 and 2011. There were no general salary increases in fiscals 2012 and 2013.

In the first quarter of fiscal 2013, full-time employees received a one-time $500 lump-sum, non-recurring payment which was not included in the base pay structure. Since it was a one-time payment, there was no impact on future operating budgets. There also was a two percent general salary increase in fiscal 2014.

"This approved budget will enhance the county's ability to attract and retain employees by offering wages that are competitive with the private sector," Patterson said. "Over the past decade, Oakland County's wages have been conservative and lagged behind labor market increases."

The county is able to return wages to just above 2009 levels because of a refinancing that took place back in April which has significantly reduced the cost of providing benefits to employees. Using lower interest rate bonds, Oakland County refinanced its Certificates of Participation which were issued in 2007 to pay off the county's retiree healthcare obligation. These lower interest rate bonds render gross cumulative savings of $171.1 million, or about an average of $13.2 million a year for 13 years.

As another incentive to retain and attract employees, annual tuition reimbursements will rise from $2,400 to $4,200 under the approved budget.

"Our tuition reimbursement program offers a way for employees to advance their careers," Patterson said. "This is especially important as we prepare for a number of 'Baby Boomers' to retire from the county."

Other approved items in the budget include capital and technology improvements to enhance security at county buildings and restoration of the 19th judgeship at Sixth Circuit Court. The State of Michigan provides funds for the judge, but the county provides support staff.

Patterson acknowledged Oakland County's elected officials for their efforts to help maintain a balanced budget.

"This budget was balanced without a tax increase and ensures delivery of needed services to Oakland County residents for the next three years," Patterson said. "A partnership of Oakland County's elected officials made it possible. Together, they have embraced the prospect of reshaping our county government to become stronger and even more efficient in the long run."

Patterson also thanked county employees for their part in seeing the county through its most challenging times. "I salute Oakland County employees for their patience, dedication and hard work. Without their efforts, we would not be where we are today," he said.

To view the budget, go to www.oakgov.com/fiscal.

Published: Mon, Sep 22, 2014

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